Henderson: Castor has no illusions about Cuba
"That's the difficulty, elevating Cuba on the to-do list," said Rep.
By Joe Henderson | Tribune Staff
Published: April 9, 2013
– If you expected U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor to return from her trip last
week to Cuba with a glowing outlook about the possibility of normalized
relations with the United States, well, that didn't happen.
Actually, there was an eye-opening moment when she stepped out of her
hotel in Havana, only to be slowed by a large crowd of locals desperate
for a glimpse of Beyonce and Jay-Z. Somehow, that couple's trip to the
isolated island attracted a little more national and international
attention than did Castor's.
"They sure know who Beyonce is, I'll tell you that," Castor said. "We
walked outside the hotel, huge crowds – Be-yon-ce! Be-yon-ce!"
Hopeful as she may be for better ties between U.S. and Cuba in more
significant areas, though, Castor's eyes are wide open.
"America, and this community, cannot enter into greater engagement with
blinders on," she said Monday during a meeting with The Tampa Tribune
"This government continues to be repressive. It does not recognize many
of the fundamental human rights that everyone around the globe strives
for, and we share as Americans, to self-determine what you do with your
Friendly relations with Cuba could have big implications for Tampa,
economically and socially. Getting past long-held hostility toward the
Castro regime isn't easy, though. Congress has to approve any major
With the world threatening to explode in places like North Korea, the
Middle East and other molten hot spots, a policy change toward Cuba
isn't a high priority.
"That's the difficulty, elevating Cuba on the to-do list," Castor said.
And this is a political fight.
"If you represent a district in Nebraska or one in Washington state,
Cuba is not so much on your radar," she said.
I talked about this subject the other day, while Castor was in Cuba,
with U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross. They are Hillsborough County's two
representatives to Congress; Castor is a Democrat, Ross is a Republican.
As you might imagine, they approach this issue from different points of
Ross said he'd love to see things improve with Cuba, but it wouldn't
happen until "regime change" that would allow Cubans to freely choose
their leaders. I asked Castor about that.
"How do you define regime change?" she said. "We've had the embargo and
travel restrictions in place for 50 years. Fidel (Castro) was there most
of the time; he's gone now. Raul (Castro) is there (as president). He's
more of a moderate. There has been a little bit of regime change.
They're on a path.
"I don't think at this point it would be in America's best interests to
invade the country," she added with a laugh, "to demand (change). The
people of Cuba should determine that. What is changing now is their
economic system, and I think that will lead to greater engagement that
will lead to change in their political system."
And if things still move too slowly, ask Beyonce to stop by for another
visit. From the sound of things, she engaged the people well.